When a driver wins a race it's customary for them to perform a burnout down the frontstretch, but is the exercise celebratory or is there nefarious means behind the practice?
That drivers may perform a burnout to intentionally damage their cars — either by blowing a tire or "accidentally" hitting the wall — to mask a potential rules infraction was a frequent topic of discussion during media day for the second round of NASCAR's playoffs Tuesday in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, and stems from a radio conversation between Denny Hamlin and crew chief Dave Rodgers after Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway.
As Kevin Harvick celebrated winning the AAA 400, a victory he needed to avoid Chase for the Sprint Cup elimination, Rogers noticed Harvick struck the inside wall.
"He took the hotrod and just fenced it hard right in front of us," Rogers radioed Hamlin. "Drove it straight into the fence. Be awfully hard to tech that one."
"Yeah, no s***," Hamlin replied.
Harvick told reporters Tuesday he didn't know if he did hit the wall and if he did, the act wasn't deliberate.
"I don't even remember actually hitting the wall," Harvick said. "I remember the tires blowing out, but I don't know if I actually hit the wall."
"I guess I knew how to knock my car back into compliance by rubbing it up against the wall," he added sarcastically.
NASCAR cleared Harvick's race-winning car in post-race technical inspection at the track and brought the vehicle back to its Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, for additional scrutiny.
A driver damaging their car celebrating post-race is not uncommon. Both Hamlin and Brad Keselowski said they have blown tires doing a burnout with Hamlin alluding that he's done so purposefully and Keselowski saying, "Oh yeah, absolutely."
Jimmie Johnson was instructed by crew chief Chad Knaus that he "has to crack the back" of the car if he won the 2011 Chase race at Talladega Superspeedway. The exchange captured by an in-car camera, included Johnson incredulously asking, "Really?" with Knaus going on to explain the reasoning behind doing so.
"Nothing we do is without merit," Hamlin said. "We all know what we're doing. It's a tough balance because NASCAR wants you to celebrate, but as drivers we know when a tire is about to blow and sometimes we continue to put the throttle to it and other times if you really want to save your car for a race coming up, you don't do that."
Nonetheless, Hamlin and Keselowski would like to see great enforcement requiring that a car stay intact so officials can properly inspect it.
"You don't want to discredit anyone's win because of what he did was really, really impressive," Hamlin said. "Obviously as all the other competitors wants to make sure they're on a level playing field with whoever did win.
"Me going forward, I would like to see some sort of way of ensuring our cars all stay intact at the R&D center because right now the R&D center is kind of a moot point if guys tear up their cars."